Government rejects EU parliament move to discuss Manipur situation

Manipur issue ‘toally internal’ to India, says Foreign Secretary, as MEPs criticise government, BJP for violence

July 12, 2023 09:48 pm | Updated 10:18 pm IST - NEW DELHI

In this picture taken on July 10, 2023, women belonging to the ‘Meira Paibis’, a group of women representing Meitei society, hold torches during a demonstation demanding for the restoration of peace in Manipur.

In this picture taken on July 10, 2023, women belonging to the ‘Meira Paibis’, a group of women representing Meitei society, hold torches during a demonstation demanding for the restoration of peace in Manipur. | Photo Credit: AFP

India on July 12 rejected the European Parliament’s plan to hold an “urgent debate” on the violence in Manipur, calling it an issue “totally internal” to India. The EU debate, set to take place later on Wednesday seeks to condemn the violence and direct the EU’s top officials to speak to New Delhi about remedying the situation. At least 142 have been killed and more than 54,000 driven from their homes since violence erupted on May 3rd this year. 

Also read | Manipur, a rude reminder of northeast tensions

Internal issue

Speaking at a briefing for journalists in Delhi, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that the debate at the European Parliament is happening despite India’s attempts to dissuade parliamentarians and putting across India’s point of view. 

“This is a matter totally internal to India. We are aware of the happenings in the [European] parliament and have reached-out to the concerned Members of European Parliament (MEPs). But we have made it absolutely clear that this is a matter wholly and totally internal to India,” Mr. Kwatra said in response to a question from The Hindu

He however declined to comment on a report in a Manipur newspaper that said the government has hired a prominent lobbying firm in Brussels, ‘Alber & Geiger’ to help with the outreach to MEPs, that had reportedly sent a letter on behalf of the Indian government to them. At least six of the eight political groups in the European parliament, which will vote on Thursday after the debate on Wednesday, have so far submitted motions ‘For a resolution on India, the situation in Manipur’. 

Also read | Manipur — this is not a time for finger-pointing

Motions criticise BJP

While some of the motions criticise members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for alleged hate speech, and the BJP-led government in Manipur for “implementing divisive ethnonationalist policies”, others refer to the broader misuse of Indian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), UAPA terror law and the Foreign Contributions Regulatory Act (FCRA) by authorities in the country.

Some of the motions make a special mention of the attacks on churches in the clashes, “between the majority Meitei community (mostly Hindu) and the Kuki tribal group (mostly Christians)”.

Human rights

They also urged the government to end the “internet shutdowns” in the State and directed the European Union (EU) leadership to take up the Manipur issue in talks on human rights with India.  At least one of the motions, proposed by the “Left Group” even drew parallels to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, and called for the government to remove restrictions on free speech and release human rights defenders who have been arrested there. 

The move at the European parliament follows days after U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti offered U.S. help in dealing with the situation in Manipur, saying that this was not a “strategic” issue but a “human one”, and that “one doesn’t have to be an Indian” to feel concern about the loss of life in the state.

While Home Minister Amit Shah has visited the affected areas, and held talks with both sides of the divide in Manipur, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised by the opposition for not making any statement on the situation or visiting the state since the violence began. 

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